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The Ruins of Old Dartmoor: No.1

By Philip Reeve, with photographs by Sarah Reeve.

Dartmoor is often described in guide books as a wilderness, and much of it does feel pretty wild, but when you walk or ride on the moor you can't go far without passing the signs of past human activity.  There are bronze age hut circles and stone rows, abandoned mediaeval villages, old boundary works, and tin mines and quarries which in some cases were working well within living memory.  These pictures record a walk we took to one of the moor's more recent ruins.  This Ballardian object is the old rifle range which stands southeast of Rippon Tor, close to the road between Halshanger and Cold East Cross.  

Dartmoor has long been used for military training, although most of it now happens on the bleaker western side.  This range was built at the beginning of the Second World War, and was in use until the mid-1960s.




This huge brick wall was the 'receiving end'; shots would have been fired into the bank behind it from four large mounds spaced out across the hillside to the east...




Author included for scale.  (Note hip-hop pixie from the Dartmoor Massive.)


The rusting machinery below would once have raised and lowered the targets...


When the range was in use a red flag would have been flown and 800 square metres of the surrounding moor would have been closed to public access.  There are still rifle and artillery ranges on the moor; from time to time we hear the guns booming, and sometimes we go for a walk over on the western side only to discover that the red flags are up.  There are people who object strongly to the moor being put to this use, but live firing days are actually quite rare, and I've always felt that it adds no end to the odd sense of mystery and danger which still clings to these hills.

Next time: some interesting chimneys.

3 comments:

andrew_greenwood512 said...

thanks Philip
this sort of thing nicely fills in the gaps between novels.
referring to your other blog, I hope you are back to full strength soon.
Andrew

Danielle Barlow said...

I'd always wondered what that enormous wall was for, and I always seem to be driving to Ashburton in a tearing hurry when I pass it, so never stop to investigate.

Hope you are well on the way to recovery :)

Philip Reeve said...

Picking up nicely thanks, though Owww.... The rifle range is a very strange place and well worth a look; there's a gate in the fence on the left hand side of the road as you go down from Cold East Cross, and it's only a ten minute stroll from there, though boggy in places.

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